Too much design

By Andrew on 22nd March 2018 — 2 mins read

I am having to re-mortgage at the moment. Always a fun mixture of gah! and arghhh! It has been interesting though. Some of it easier than expected, some unnecessarily painful.

The most interesting moments were the phone calls I had with two different Mortgage Advisors. One was a very human and rambly conversation. The other call was heavily scripted – marching me through a strict flow. No prizes for guessing which of them I prefered.

It got me to thinking about the designers of the tool the second guy was using. I’m sure the compliance and risk folks loved it – a completely nailed down process for giving advice! Though I have to say that each step was so prescribed and regimented that it really didn’t feel like advice. More like jumping through hoops. Also some of the questions asked pointed in such an obvious / direct way to a product choice. For example, at one point the guy asked me:

Do you prefer knowing exactly what your payments will be each month?

Fair question, but if I say ‘Yes’ and he then suggests I go for a fixed-rate product, then that is not advice is it?

He also asked:

What do you think the interest rates will do in 3 years, or 5 years?

I hoped he’d be able to give me his thoughts on that. Of course, he couldn’t. That would be genuine advice.

None of this was his fault of course. I just wonder if the tool he was using made things worse.

The other mortgage advisor I spoke to, was happy to have an unstructured rambling sort of chat. She didn’t offer any genuine advice either, but somehow because it was more human – feeling like a genuine conversation – it did feel like I was being guided towards some useful decisions.

She had a range of tools at her disposal – for making quick calculations on affordability, quotes, payments… but only turned to these briefly. The rest of the time was completely unstructured chatting.

The guy I spoke to offered no such flexibility. It was clear that he was reading from a script, asking questions, inputing my answers, giving me little or no assurances along the way. He did answer the questions I had, but the scripted flow was always going to be what we came back to as our guide. It dominated our interaction.

It reminded me again of the dangers of too much design: well intentioned people creating rigid systems that don’t allow for the natural ebb and flow of human interactions. There is just no point in automating every single message and having a human read them out! Put that shit online – when a human isn’t available. Better yet, learn from the human experts and emulate as much as possible from their behaviour (to humanise the tech).

But I needed to speak to a human

to feel
– reassurance and comfort about the first steps to take
– I could approach things in my muddled way, out of sequence
– to feel listened to, perhaps even cared for

Until such time as the industry (or some fin-tech) provides easier to understand mortgage products, we’re never going to get away from needing to use brokers / advisors. It’s too important a transaction – surrounded by too much worry. So let’s be humble about how much digital support we can add…

Posted in: Design thinking

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